“May I take them outside?” Sarah pleaded. “I can snap them on the porch.”
“All right. But keep your mind on the job, do you hear? You can daydream a little, but keep your fingers busy.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Sarah agreed automatically to the familiar instruction, grabbed the large basket of beans, and skipped outside.
As she worked, one thought chased itself through her mind. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show is in town! Annie Oakley is here!
Sarah had no idea how to pay for a ticket. She climbed her favorite tree and perched there, considering the problem.
“Here we are.”
Sarah scrambled out of the wagon as her father helped her mother down.
“Be sure you give this to Mrs. Bishop with my regards.”
Sarah took the package of homemade cheese. Leaving her parents to their shopping, she made her way to the home of her friend Mabel Bishop. In short order, she and Mabel were traipsing down the street.
“We’re really allowed to go see the camp where the show is staying?”
“I heard that we can see into the camp. Maybe they’ll happen to be practicing or something.” Mabel hopped a couple of her steps.
“It would be great to see Miss Oakley shoot a rifle!” Sarah did not really think that the troupe would be practicing in open view, but it couldn’t hurt to hope. She hopped a bit, too.
The girls paused by a poster advertising “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Congress, Rough Riders of the World.” Star billing was given to “Miss Annie Oakley, The Peerless Lady Wing-Shot.” The depiction of Miss Oakley showed a dark-haired girl in a schoolgirl-length pleated skirt, matching top covered with medals, low shoes, a Western-style hat adorned with a single star, leggings of flawless fit, gloves, and—best of all—a rifle.
“Just look at her! You almost can’t see her blouse through the medals!” Mabel’s eyes were big.
“I wish my parents would let me learn to shoot. I just know I’d be a good shot!”
“It’s not ladylike.” Mabel’s sigh and the following words were almost inaudible, but Sarah heard it all. “I think it’d be fun, too, but it’s not going to happen.”
Sarah didn’t like being a little lady, either, but she didn’t want to talk about it. “Well, let’s go see what we can see!” She grabbed Mabel’s hand, and the two hurried towards the camp.
“Look at the tepees!” Sarah had never seen anything like the scene at the edge of the town this day.
“And the Indians!”
“And the horses! Over there, see?” Sarah pointed. Pointing wasn’t ladylike. Sarah flipped her braid over her shoulder and ignored the thought.
They watched for quite some time. Such a large company, and so much to see!
After a while, Sarah noticed a short lady carrying a steaming pot into a tent. When she came back out, she no longer carried the pot. The lady looked up, changed course, and came towards the girls.
Sarah didn’t realize how short the lady was until she was right next to the Sarah and Amanda. Why, she was barely taller than Sarah herself. Sarah stared at her.
It was the girl from the poster, although here she was wearing a full-length, grown-up dress.
It was Annie Oakley.
“Hello! I am Annie Oakley. But you may call me Mrs. Butler. That’s my married name.”
“I’m Sarah.” Sarah’s jaw returned to its previous gaping position, but Sarah barely noticed.
Sarah finally remembered what she was supposed to say next. “It’s good to meet you, Miss Oakl—Mrs. Butler.”
“The pleasure is mine.” Mrs. Butler’s smile warmed Sarah.
“What was in the pot?” Sarah wasn’t sure if that was a polite question, but she wanted to know.
“I took some soup to a sick lady.” The answer was gracious.
They chatted some more—just like grown-up folks, Sarah thought. Then Mrs. Butler asked, “Are you coming to see the show?”
“I don’t think we can,” said Sarah, sadly.
“No tickets?” Sarah and Mabel nodded, but Mrs. Butler smiled again. “For you.”
Sarah saw her hand accepting the tickets and heard her own voice, in a high pitch, thanking Mrs. Butler, but none of it seemed real.
Perched in her tree, thinking over her day, Sarah had one thought: Mrs. Butler, Little Sure Shot—she was a lady. Sarah thought she could learn to be a lady like that.
“Thank you, Lord, for the tickets. And for Annie Oakley.”
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